Using the Our Father to teach us How to Pray and What to pray for
There are so many posts on how to pray and many great acronyms to help (P.R.A.Y. and P.R.A.I.S.E.) There are hundreds of pastors and thousands of bloggers, there are spiritual gurus, guides, prayer prompts, and prayer journals. There is almost TOO much help out there on how to pray… because if you really don’t know, then how do you choose what advice you should take?
How about advice from the man Himself?
How to Pray?
Why, as Jesus taught us, of course!
“The Lord’s Prayer” – Matthew 6:9-13
Prayer follows an intrinsic and necessary hierarchy
Our Father, who art in heaven…
- We must pray, first of all, in the name of God. Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in their midst. Mt 18:20 Anything You ask in my name I will do. – John 14:14
- We must pray, not just in His name, but also in line with the relationship signified by that name. What you call someone depends on your relationship with that person. In this case we are calling God, FATHER. What should an ideal relationship with a Father be? It is a relationship of respect and trust. This means we must pray with full trust and respect in His wisdom and His final decision, even if it does not align with what we thought we wanted. – If you who are evil know how to give what is good to your children how much more will your Father in Heaven give good gifts to those who ask Him (Matthew 7:11) .
- Who art in Heaven – We can’t forget the second part of this salutation. Why is it important to mention Our Father IN HEAVEN? Why? Because He is GOD! Because it means, not only is He Father – close, approachable, loving, and beloved – but He is also all-knowing, all-wise, and all-powerful. This means we must TRUST that His decisions in the answers to our prayers are never limited by difficulty or uncertainty and therefore, must be truly best for us, no matter whether or not we understand it.
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Hallowed be thy name…
Who knew the first couple lines of the Our Father could be so PACKED. Most people see them as redundant but every word is a new world to explore. This next phrase is all about praise. Hallowed. Savor it. Feel it. What does Hallowed mean? It means sacred, revered, untouchable and awe-inspiring, while at the same time beckoning, calling us towards it as Moses was called towards the burning bush. It focuses on expressing, in the best possible of our weak human terms, the nature of the previously unspeakable name of God. It reinforces and solidifies the importance of the previous two lines. It follows them to express, not only how important they are but also how we are to relate to them. It calls us to recognize the multifaceted nature of God. He can be close to us and beloved by us as Father, but we can never forget that He is also GOD and as such He deserves our awe, reverence and praise. This line doesn’t just acknowledge who God is, but REJOICES in who God is, both as Father and GOD, and sets us up for the rest of the prayer that is to come.
Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done.
This line expresses our desire for union with His will. In our prayer we must pray to know His will and pray to gratefully accept He answer no matter what it may be. When we say the Our Father, whether we are conscious of it or not, we are praying to grow in humility and trust. Sometimes, when a Father says,”no”, it’s really for the best.
Only AFTER all the previous steps should we begin our petitions… (See next section)
What to Pray For:
Give us this day our daily bread.
When we pray we must learn to pray first for what we need and not just what we want. You may want to ask yourself if you truly need what you think you want before begging God for something. You need to pay your bills (but sometimes what you might really need it to downsize your bills). You need to feed your family (but you may not need to go out to eat as often). You need a roof over your head (but you may not need a 10,000 sqft mansion with marble floors). You get the idea…
Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.
To err is human, to forgive is divine. – Alexander Pope
All of the virtues that make us better people come from God. We cannot make ourselves perfect by our own efforts. This is why Christ had to come to die. We need help to be Christlike. We need Him. Thus, when we pray, we must always pray for more love, motivation, forgiveness, patience, humility and strength in your heart and in your own life. These deeper virtues are what really matter and create a lasting impact in our lives and in the lives of others. The virtues are crucial to living a fulfilling life in our modern world, to keeping our eyes “fixed on Him” and not getting caught up in the “things of this life”.
Lead us not into temptation.
In addition to the obvious plea for helping us to avoid temptation in our lives, we are asking here for an ever closer relationship with God. ” Why?” You ask. “What does that have to do with temptation?” EVERYTHING! When we are close to God, when we hear and know His voice, when we love Him and cling to Him, temptation looses it’s appeal. “He walks ahead of them, and the sheep follow him, because they recognize his voice. But they will not follow a stranger; they will run away from him, because they do not recognize the voice of strangers” John 10: 4-5. Within this as well, we want to pray for others to experience this same closer relationship with God, and for everyone to recognize more and more each day the value of cooperating with God.
Deliver us from Evil.
What is evil? Evil is anything and everything that harms us or others in any way and/or leads us away from God. This seeks protection from the Enemy and from His tactics. It seeks strength in the face of temptation and the strength and humility it takes to return to love once we have once we have fallen. It prays for us to be open to what God wants especially if our desires might be contrary to what He knows is best. The Enemy often disguises His temptations to Evil as good. It prays always for the true best thing to be done in each situation (not what the interested parties think is best, but what is actually best) and that the people in that situation find the lesson in it sooner rather than later so that their struggle might not be prolonged.
Close your prayers with “AMEN”
Amen = I believe. Let it be done. A statement of confidence in the value and worth of your prayer. In the fact that God heard you and will do what is best. A statement of belief in His power to do anything necessary, miraculous or otherwise, to make the truly best outcome happen for all involved.
What not to pray for
Notice how, in the Our Father, Christ never prayed for his favorite team to win the Super Bowl or for his friend’s dog to be cured of cancer. He did not pray for selfish desires or things that were petty. He did not ask for comfort or lack of struggle. He did not pray for riches or fame.
Does this mean that praying for these things is bad? Why should it be horrible to pray for my business to succeed? Why should it be wrong to care about my friend’s health (or the health of her dog)?
Some of these petitions might be actual needs in line with God’s will and He will always respond accordingly. Other times, however, we might fall victim to our selfishness and pray for things that aren’t necessarily good for us. We need to learn to see God’s answers as always coming from a place of love. We can learn so much from the word, “No”.
It is never wrong of a child to ask their father for candy, but it doesn’t mean that the Father will always say yes. But, as a father, He loves His children and loves to see them happy. Often He will say yes 🙂
There are times when I ask God to find me a close parking spot or to keep the light green for me because I am in a hurry. Does it always happen? More often than not it does, believe it or not, but no matter what, I always end up arriving on time when I pray those prayers, regardless of whether the light stayed green or not. See, God hears the spirit of our prayers and gives us what we need rather than what we think we want. What I really need is to arrive on time, nothing else. And THAT He always gives me!
If you are unsure of whether or not you should be praying for something, always feel free to pray for it, but finish your prayers always as Our Lord did in the garden
Not my will but thine be done. (Luke 22:42)
How has the Lord been teaching you to pray in your life? How has he answered your prayers, or given you something even greater? Share your testimonies below!
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